Friday, September 1, 2023

How We Got the Van (written April 7, 2022)

So getting a Mercedes Benz Sprinter van is not as easy as trotting down to your local dealer, paying, and driving it off the lot.  Honestly, I wasn't even sold on our van being an MB Sprinter.  I was also interested in the Ford Transit since it now had an AWD option.

One thing that could drive your selection of make/model is the upfitter you use.  Many only exclusively work on Sprinter or Transit or Promaster.  There are a few that work on multiple makes but most focus on one make.  We had narrowed down our search on an upfitter first.  As it turned out, they all only converted Sprinters.  Benchmark had previously done Transits but they stopped. 

When we asked Momentum Van (the upfitter we chose), they told us they only worked on Sprinters.  First, they only need expertise on one van.  Second, they are big fans of MB fit, finish, and quality.  So MB Sprinter it is.

But...always a but.  Momentum, like many, do not source vehicles for their customers.  Ok, so I need to go buy a van.  No biggie.  I asked Momentum for some advice and referrals.  This was in October 2021.  They told us to get moving on acquiring a van - even before we locked up build slot at Momentum.  But the build slot is Fall, 2022 - why do I need to rush.  This is when I learned that Sprinter V6 4x4 170s were a rare commodity and very challenging to acquire.  So how do I get one I asked.  Their response: "I would start by reaching out to 50 dealers immediately."  They were serious!

This was a shock to me.  I wasn't prepared to do a bunch of legwork to find a van.  But whatever.  I started with the 3 contacts provided to me by Momentum - Seattle, Spokane, and Lynnwood.  I dropped them email.  The next day I filled out the Contact form for 15 Sprinter dealers in Washington and Oregon. 

So what happened next?  I heard from Spokane - not very friendly.  They basically told me to buzz off for 3 months and they'll try to help me in 2022.  Seattle and Lynnwood never responded.  I heard from about half of the 15 within hours.  The smaller dealerships in OR prioritized or reserved their allocations for OR state residences (this is a new issue I hadn't thought of).  I was prepared to start expanding my search to  the rest of the western US.

I took a call from Marisela Valencia at Tri Cities Mercedes Benz in Kennewick, WA.  She had recently (ie, within the last few days) 2 allocations for 170 4x4s.  One was already gone, but I could reserve the other one for us.

Never having ordered a vehicle or researched how rare Sprinters were, this was all new to me.  I hopped off the call (without committing) and discussed the option with Steph.  This was the exact van we wanted and we could pre-order color, options, etc.  I called Marisela back within the hour and claimed the allocation.  The following Monday morning (that was Friday afternoon), I put down my $1k deposit for the build.

Oddly, Marisela kept telling me how their dealership doesn't do markups.  I was confused - what's this markup.  She explained they sell the van for MSRP and the dealer doesn't add more to the price.  HUH?  I've NEVER paid MSRP, let alone pay above MSRP.  Heck, I even attempted to negotiate the price of the Sprinter lower.  She politely explained that she would pass on any Mercedes incentives/rebates if they existed but there is nothing for the Sprinter.  Ok, welp, we will pay MSRP.

I quickly did some research and learned that most are paying above MSRP for a new van.  Sometimes as much as $20k.  WTF!  Suddenly this MSRP deal is not so bad.  I shared this with Momentum.  While happy to hear this, they were skeptical.  They suggested that I get an agreement written on the price 

Long story short.  I didn't attempt to get a contract.  I actually don't think they would do this.  See, with no formal agreement, they have leverage to ensure I get to the dealership as quick as possible to pick up the van when it arrives.  They don't want the risk of the van sitting on their lot.  This is my belief anyway.

So, did I get it for MSRP.  Absolutely.  The build was scheduled to start on Feb 1, 2022.  Marisela notified me at the end of February that it was built.  She then called me on April 4th to inform me the van had arrived.  Ideally, they wanted me there within 48 hours (or as close to that as possible) to pick up the van.

On April 7, I caught the very short 8am flight from Seattle to Pasco.  Marisela promptly picked me up at the airport at 9am.  The van was all washed and ready out front when we arrived.  Paperwork and an intro the systems on the van and I was out of there by 11am in our 2022 MB Sprinter 170 4x4 in Selenite Gray Metallic.

A couple of things of note.

I had recently seen comments in forums that 2022 vans were missing some things due to supply chain issues and/or product shortages.  While I ordered the Driver Convenience Package - I did not get the Driver Convenience Package.  I got everything (I think) except for BLIS.  Sigh.  A 23' foot van with no rear windows or rear view mirror and I have no blind spot detection.  Just have to do it the ole fashion way - use the mirrors.

Marisela called me last week (around March 31).  She had a customer back out on a 170 EXT 4x4 order - she was looking for a new buyer.  Even if you don't get an allocation, good dealership people will keep in touch.  Also, while I was there, she mentioned she had just picked up one more allocation. 

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